The Arizona Interscholastic Association is only an approval from the Executive Board away from making an eight-team Open Division football playoff a reality next season.
The AIA will ask the board to vote on the proposal at its Jan. 22 meeting.
During Tuesday’s reclassification meeting, AIA Executive Director David Hines presented feedback he received from schools. The majority is in favor of an Open Division, which would take the top eight teams from 6A, 5A and 4A next season and put them in a College Football Playoff-like bracket for what will be billed as the Super Bowl of Arizona high school football.
The reclassification committee Tuesday voted in favor of eight teams, instead of 12, for the playoffs. It also voted to keep 6A at 16 teams for its playoffs. And the committee decided it would be best to not add a human element to rank the teams for the Open Division, but use computer rankings, such as MaxPreps.
Margin of victory would figure into the rankings, but the cap would be 14 points. The committee also talked about making the cap 21 points. The hope is not to get teams to run up the score, especially at the end of games when a team is trying to make it a 14-point win if it is close.
Based on the 2018 season, Scottsdale Saguaro (4A champion) and Peoria Centennial (5A champion) would have been playing for the Open Division title against six 6A schools, led by state champion Chandler.
Centennial shocked the state in 2015, when the AIA did a super division at the highest level that was left with only 17 schools in the conference, after a rash of appeals to move down. The following year, the AIA scrapped the formula and went back to placing schools in conferences based only on enrollment numbers and doing away with treating football separately.
But there have been so many lopsided scores the last two seasons, and some schools had safety concerns, even playing against a powerhouse in its own conference.
“I think it’s an exciting proposition,” said Saguaro coach Jason Mohns, who has led the Sabercats to a state-record string of six titles, five of those coming in 4A and another in Division II (the 2015 version of 5A). “We need more information. But it has the potential to be a good thing.”
Here are the final MaxPreps’ Arizona 2018 rankings for the top eight:
No. 1 Chandler, No. 2 Centennial, No. 3 Gilbert Perry, No. 4 Gilbert Highland, No. 5 Saguaro, No. 6 Phoenix Pinnacle, No. 7 Phoenix Desert Vista, No. 8 Phoenix Mountain Pointe.